Persian chelow

Persian chelow

By
From
New Middle Eastern Food
Serves
4-6
Photographer
Mark Roper

Once you’ve grasped the basic parboil-rinse-steam technique of preparing gorgeously fluffy chelow, you’ll be ready to tackle other Persian rice dishes as most follow the same method. A prized part of any Persian rice dish is the crunchy layer that forms under the rice as it cooks—the tah-deeg, which literally means ‘base of the pot’. We use oil or ghee to start the tah-deeg, as straight butter burns too easily. There are several popular tah-deeg variations. For a fancy presentation the rice is inverted onto a platter, so the golden crust can be properly admired. But in many households, for everyday eating the rice is spooned onto a platter and the tah-deeg is served on a separate plate.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
300g iranian or best-quality basmati rice
2 litres water
2 tablespoons sea salt
70ml vegetable oil
40g unsalted butter, melted

Method

  1. Wash the rice thoroughly, then leave it to soak in a generous amount of lukewarm water for 30 minutes. Swish it around with your fingers every now and then to loosen the starch. Strain the rice, rinsing it again with warm water.
  2. Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the salt and stir in the strained rice. Return the water to a rolling boil and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Test the rice by pinching a grain between your fingers or by biting it. It should be soft on the outside, but still hard in the centre. Strain the rice and rinse again with warm water. Toss it several times to drain away as much of the water as you can. Return the saucepan to a medium heat and add the oil and 2 tablespoons water. As soon as the oil begins to sizzle, spoon in enough rice to cover the base of the saucepan in a thin layer, then spoon in the rest of the rice gradually, building it up into a pyramid. Don’t tip it all in at once, as this will squash the rice and you won’t achieve the proper fluffy lightness. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke five or six holes down through the rice to the base of the pan to help it steam.
  3. Mix 2 tablespoons warm water with the melted butter and drizzle this over the rice. Wrap the saucepan lid in a clean tea towel and cover the pan as tightly as you can. Leave the pan on a medium–high heat for 2–3 minutes until the rice is visibly steaming — you will see puffs of steam escaping from the edges of the pan. Turn the heat down to low and leave the pan alone for 40 minutes. Resist the temptation to peek, as this releases the steam and affects the cooking time. The rice can actually sit quite happily over the lowest possible heat for another 20 minutes or so.
  4. When ready to serve, sit the saucepan in a little cold water in the sink; the sudden change in temperature creates a surge of steam that ‘shocks’ the rice and makes it shrink from the sides, which loosens the crusty bottom.
  5. To serve, invert the pan onto a warm serving platter so that the rice plops out as one glorious, golden-capped mound. Otherwise, spoon the rice into a warm serving dish and when you reach the crisp base, lift it out and drape it over the rice. It doesn’t matter in the slightest if the tah-deeg breaks. Alternatively, present it on a separate plate.
Tags:
Malouf
Greg
Lucy
Middle
Eastern
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